I grew up at RFK stadium. My childhood blood ran burgundy and gold. My favorite memory of many spent in that loud, old-school bowl was the 1973 regular season finale versus the hated Philadelphia Eagles. Larry Brown ran wild for 150 yards and one rushing touchdown, but caught three passes for 105 yards, all three for touchdowns. But that’s not what made the memory indelible. I was 16, and I was with my Dad.
He had comforted me the previous January as the ‘Skins lost their first Super Bowl appearance, an ugly showing against those perfect-season Miami Dolphins. As I moved away from the D.C. suburbs, I hoped for a return to the Super Bowl, and dared to dream of an actual win.
It came a decade later, in perfect symmetry, against the Dolphins. I was in my mid-20s, stumbling through my first talk shows in Jacksonville. A few years later, I watched in Memphis as my team spotted the Denver Broncos a 10-point first quarter lead before responding with 35 in the second quarter on the way to a 42-10 Super Bowl XXII shellacking.
Back in the old hometown four years later, I gathered with childhood friends to watch the team we had loved for a lifetime as they bested the Buffalo Bills in Super Bowl XXVI.
I moved soon thereafter, not just back to my native Texas, but to the seat of Redskins enemy territory: Dallas. After 26 years, I am pleased to root for the team embraced by my listeners, and most importantly, my wife and her family, all of whom understand my fond recall of a youth spent rooting for the other half of the legendary Cowboys-Redskins rivalry.
That rivalry is now dead. The Redskins are dead. The name lasted 87 years, bringing joy to millions upon millions of people, even in seasons when the product on the field did not.
Daniel Snyder, one of the most maligned owners of the 21st century, assured fans just seven short years ago that the team name would never change. At least he had that going for him.
No longer. A proud name that brought with it the NFL’s best band uniforms and its best fight song, is dashed against the rocks of political correctness in the latest surrender to the phony outrage of the current American moment.
To be clear: Much of today’s roiled sensibilities are understandable. The nation stood ready to unite behind reforms following the George Floyd death, before progress was sadly derailed by needless rioting. If a community decides to rid itself of statues of leaders known only for service to the Confederacy, that is not unreasonable.
But these are not reasonable times. Mobs are on the prowl for likenesses of our founding fathers, erasing their attributes with modern-day revulsion. Columbus must also be purged for his failure to adhere to 21st century beliefs more than 500 years ago.
In this toxic atmosphere of absurdity, a small ember of protest was fanned to full combustion, consuming the Redskins name in a fit of contrived offense. There was never evidence of broad, sincere opposition to the name. Some Native American objections were lodged over the years, but they never constituted a wide cross-section of distaste. In poll after poll, fans of every race lined up behind keeping the name.
None of that matters in the covens of cancel culture.
Anything that rattles the most easily triggered must be eradicated. And spare me the excuse that this was a financial decision, as if that makes it explicable. Yes, companies threatened to pull financial support from the Redskins if they kept the name. Does anyone believe those corporate boardrooms developed a sudden objection to a name they had supported for decades? Like other weasels unwilling to stand on principle, they acted from fear of having to explain themselves to armies of protesting lunatics.
Like the Viking in Minnesota and yes, the Cowboy in Dallas, the Redskin was a character type chosen for its positive attributes. Who names a team after something they seek to denigrate? From the strains of “Hail to the Redskins” and its reference to “braves on the warpath,” to the elaborately attired band that marched downfield with proud headdresses, Redskins home games were a boisterous celebration of Native American imagery.
All of that will be gone now because malcontents viewed it as some poisonous mix of racism and cultural appropriation. It was never anything of the kind. But the bullies are in full throat these days, emboldened by an abject lack of national will to meet them in the arena of debate.
Why is the name of a sports team such a big deal? Because it is a battlefield victory in a larger war featuring aggression against any vestige of history or culture that annoys the tribunals of wokeness. Another target has appeared in my state of Texas, as the Rangers baseball team name is in the crosshairs of the Washington Post editor recently scolded for telling white women they are lucky that black women are only mocking their occasional viral racist moments and not seeking outright revenge.
Karen Attiah, editor of “global opinion,” whatever that is, suggests “Texas Rangers” must be scuttled because of ancient misbehaviors of the law enforcement organization that is the team’s namesake. She says she grew up here, but her column on the subject shows she clearly reviles the state’s style and traditions. Were there bad acts committed by the Texas Rangers of old? There were, as there are dark chapters in every realm of law enforcement as we traveled the difficult roads to enlightenment. But does modern law enforcement deserve to be maligned because of behaviors of generations past?
Of course it does, seen through the lens of the current purge. And this is why the surrender of the Redskins is important to recognize and oppose. Those who would vandalize vast swaths of America’s names, places and stories must be called to account, whether in the world of sports, statues or a guaranteed future target, schoolbooks.
To repeat: some statues might need to go. And I supported confederate imagery struck from the flag of Mississippi. There’s only one state flag. But there are countless artifacts, sports teams and cultural images that will be nuked if no one is there to fight.
Fighting will be hard in an America that prodded the Redskins to exacerbate their gutlessness with a statement that had the power to induce mass nausea.
The team, they say, is “working closely to develop a new name and design approach that will enhance the standing of our proud tradition-rich franchise and inspire our sponsors, fans and community for the next 100 years.”
That is obscene. This is an assault on a tradition-rich franchise, an affront to anyone with joyful memories of cheering that name, singing that song and wearing that logo.
The modern logo, by the way, the noble face seen in profile since George Allen’s arrival in 1971, was designed by Walter “Blackie” Wetzel, raised on the Blackfeet Reservation in Montana, rising to the presidency of the National Congress of American Indians. His son Lance, contacted by a Washington TV station, is crestfallen: “It takes away from the Native Americans. When I see that logo, I take pride in it. You look at the depiction of the Redskins logo and it’s of a true Native American. I always felt it was representing my people.”
None of that means a thing to today’s aggressors, virtually none of whom are actual Native Americans. Who will stand up to stop this wave of excess? It must be made clear that on a case-by-case basis, reasonable people can discuss a wide variety of modern umbrage across a wide landscape of controversies. But that can only proceed when there is courage to stand firm when kneejerk opportunism rears its head.